About this time last week, Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian was going out of his way to sing the praises of senior offensive lineman Gregory Christine.
When asked general questions about the line, Sarkisian would volunteer Christine’s name, at one point using the description “fantastic.”
However, Christine started at center during the Huskies’ scrimmage on Saturday, and the performance didn’t live up to expectations – not for the offense in general, not for Christine in particular.
“He had a couple of mental mistakes that I was surprised about: turning the wrong way and turning a guy loose in pass protection,” Sarkisian said after the first of two Tuesday practices. “All in all, he had a good scrimmage; but we just can’t afford those couple of mistakes.”
This is a time of camp when the mental and physical tolls can cause equal problems, offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto said. And the challenges might have been especially severe Saturday because the scrimmage followed a tough 70-play session on Friday.
“As a coach I once had told me, ‘Don’t ever forget what it’s like to be a player,’” Cozzetto said. “They’ve been in camp and they’ve been around each other and they’ve been hitting each other for a while. You’re in camp for one reason: As you’re going into the season, you’re conditioned, you’re trained to react to being tired, OK, and you’ve just got to constantly play one snap at a time, that’s all you can do.”
Cozzetto thinks Christine might have made things tougher on himself by assuming more responsibility than necessary as he shifted from guard to center.
“Sometimes he over-thinks,” Cozzetto said. “Just play. You get into that center spot, you get into that realm where you think you’ve got to tell everybody what to do. They study too, they go to all the meetings too. It’s just a matter of don’t let it disrupt your game by trying to do that. Don’t try to over-think things. Just do what you’ve been trained and everything will take care of itself.”
Christine says he still believes that despite some tough times that have followed his decision to walk on in 2006 after a successful career at St. Bonaventure High School, north of Los Angeles.
He appeared in one game over his first three seasons on campus. He was put on scholarship at the start of last season and started at left guard for the first six games. But then he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the win over Arizona.
Despite the challenges, he says he has never regretted his decision to come to UW.
“I have so much unfinished business,” he said. “This is it: This is my last time as a Husky. I mean, I’ll be a Husky for life, but playing football. ... I think everything to this point has been incredible. And I think we’ll put the cherry on top this year for all of us seniors.”
The Tuesday morning session emphasized red-zone offense and defense. One of the highlights was safety Will Shamburger’s interception of a Jake Locker pass at the goal line. “Heck of a play there,” Sarkisian said. “Will has just kind of carried over from spring ball. He’s been impressive all the way through.” Sarkisian said he hasn’t seen much to separate the candidates to play safety opposite Nate Williams. Shamburger is more of a cover guy, Sarkisian noted, while Nate Fellner is more of a bruiser. ... Sarkisian said linebacker Cort Dennison (knee) is cleared to practice and wants to practice, but he is being held out as a precaution. ... Sarkisian also said No. 2 quarterback candidate Keith Price has loosened up in his redshirt freshman season and he seems to be having more fun. “That growth from year one to year two with any player in huge, and we’re seeing it with Keith,” Sarkisian said. “His understanding of our system is huge.” ... Washington will hold a single practice today at 3 p.m., before Thursday’s final two-a-day practices of fall.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org